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Seoul Shock: Let’s have a drink

Koreans love alcohol, and rank first when it comes to liquor consumption. Drinking is a huge part of their daily lives and considered a major bonding point for friends and co-workers. Turning down a drink is like social suicide. 

Whether it’s club member training or an outing with business associates, there’s bound to be alcohol, and lots of it. Also, there’s no law against drinking in public, so people can drink anywhere they want and however much they want.

I have a few Koreans who I tutor in conversational English and one of them works for a construction company.

When Wednesday comes around, I meet her at a café and we work together to improve her English, but that becomes more difficult when she’s more exhausted than usual. I remember one day more clearly than the others when she came in with no makeup on (this is a no-no in Korea, because appearance is crucial).

I asked her if she was okay, and she said she’d been up half the night because her supervisor wanted to go drinking with the team.

On a Tuesday? Yes. No matter what the day, alcohol is consumed in large quantities by people of all ages. Since Korea is largely a hierarchical society, no one can say “no” when the boss wants to go drinking to ensure co-worker closeness.

This also comes in the form of peer pressure from drinking buddies, but off the scale as compared to “peer pressure” as I previously defined it in America, because as I said, it’s unacceptable to not have at least one drink.

It’s Monday and there’s class at 9 a.m. the next morning? Doesn’t matter.

Koreans work hard with some of the longest workdays in the world, and play hard by drinking alcohol to match it.

Drink at the park, drink on the rooftops, drink at the mountains, drink with the boss, drink with the students and then go back and drink some more.